ABA urged to close law school doors

US LAWYERS are pressing the American Bar Association to shut the doors on law schools after recent figures showed the country's attorney population had grown to almost 900,000.

ABA president-elect Lee Cooper said it was “staggering” that the number of lawyers in the US had reached almost one million, compared with 400,000 in 1975.

Cooper said the ABA had been approached to consider legislating on the issue.

He said some lawyers were questioning the open-door policy of US law schools, which last year admitted over 120,000 new students despite protests from qualified attorneys that there was not enough work to support the existing profession.

“While the lawyer population in the US has doubled, the average lawyer is challenged to make a decent living or wage,” said Cooper. “This economic pressure has caused some of those in our profession to question the wisdom of admitting more than 120,000 new students into law school each year.

“Some lawyers in the US are now in favour of closing the door into the practice of law and the ABA must be ready, and will be ready, to address those questions.”

But some attorneys said they would argue against enforced limits. Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal partner Samuel Fifer said not every student became a practising lawyer and the current system allowed for the “survival of the fittest”.

Fifer, co-chair of Sonnenschein's intellectual property practice group, said: “What I've heard said is that what is wrong with the profession, such as too much litigation and lawyers being unnecessarily combative, is what you get when there are too many lawyers. I'm not sure I agree with that, but it's a view espoused by some and I can't say it's an irrational point of view to hold.

“I think the better argument is to let as many people as are capable aspire to become attorneys. There are natural hurdles that I believe will sift out those who not destined to make it.”